Ancestor Bio – Thelma M. Montran Babcock – Poet

Montran Project
52 Ancestors – Week 192
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Now, I go off on a speculative tangent. It is my assertion that my great grandfather, John Montran who married Ida Mae Barber is the same individual as John Foster Montran, who married Maude Minnie Winter. Both John’s were probably born in France, both lived for a time in Pennsylvania, both were traveling agents, and both died before 1911. Finally, John Montran is a fairly unique name; I have only found two lived contemporary to my grandmother’s birth – John and John Foster. Anyway, I suspect my John and John Foster are the same person. I have searched and have been unable to find any time or place where both can be seen at the same time.  John pops into existence about 1892 and marries my great-grandmother, Ida, has my grandmother, then vanishes. A John Foster Montran married Maude Minnie Winter about 1894 and had two children. Then he vanishes about 1897. Ida remarried in 1897 and Maude claimed to be widowed by the 1900 census. My speculation is that John Foster Montran is my Great Grandfather and that the two John Montran’s are one person.

DNA testing would answer the question clearly if I am able to find a descendant of John Foster Montran and if that descendant agreed to test. With that in mind, I have begun researching the descendants of John Foster Montran to see if I can find a direct descendant. John Foster Montran had two children with Maude Minnie Winter. They are Thelma M. Montran and Ruth Grace Montran.

 

John Montran Project 2017 – John’s Daughter Thelma

Great-grandfather: John Foster Montran (Potential)

His Wife: Maude Minnie Winter

Daughter: Thelma M. Montran
Daughter: Ruth Grace Montran

His Wife: Ida Mae Barber (My great-grandmother)

Daughter: Madonna Mae Montran (My grandmother)

Thelma M. Montran Babcock (1895-1974)

Generally, I like to use the census closest to the birth of the individual to identify the birth year. However, in the case of Thelma, the 1900 census indicates that she was six years old, and was born in June 1894. However, every other record I can find about Thelma, census records, newspaper articles, and Social Security records all indicate or support that she was born on 23 June 1895 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to John Foster and Maude Minnie (Winter) Montran.

The 1900 census finds Thelma, and her younger sister Ruth, living in Waterloo, New York, with her aunt, Jerusha; uncle, Penrose Brown; and their grandmother, Maryann Winter. Their mother was living 50 miles away in Rochester, New York working as a live-in nurse.

The 1910 census finds the two girls living with Jerusha and Penrose, but were identified as adopted daughters. They lived in Shamokin, Pennsylvania and their mother lived 120 miles away in Philadelphia.

Marriage

About 1915, Thelma married Minor Howard Babcock and moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where their first child, Olga Ruth, was born in February 1916 and the family appears in the 1916 Canadian Census.

Children of Minor Howard and Thelma M (Montran) Babcock

  Birth Death
Olga Ruth Babcock Feb 1916 (in Canada) 4 May 2001
Montran Benson Babcock 11 June 1922 June 1972

Adult

The 1920 census finds Thelma had moved back to the United States and was living with her husband and daughter in San Francisco.

The 1930 census finds Thelma living at 534 W. Nectarine St. in Inglewood, California. Minor is an accountant and their two children are with them. Also, in the household is Thelma’s mother, Maude Montran.

In 1935 the family is still living on Nectarine Street, however, Thelma is running a Confectioner business at 211 E. Queen. Her daughter, Olga, is working as a clerk for her.

The 1940 census indicates that Thelma and Minor had become divorced. Thelma was working as the proprietor of a guest house with many lodgers. With her are her two children, Olga and Montran.

Stories

A 1944 newspaper article indicated that Thelma was “widely known as a poet,” she owned a 20-acre apple-tree ranch near Lake Gregory and owned a hotel in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Death

Thelma died on 7 May 1974 in Los Angeles County, California.  I have not determined Thelma’s final resting place.

Conclusion

Family Tree Maker 2017 indicates that Thelma is the “daughter of my Great-Grandfather.” By my reckoning, she is my grandmother’s half-sister, thus my grand-aunt. Thelma’s children would be my mother’s 1st cousins and my 1st cousins once removed. Finally, Olga and Monty’s children would be my 2nd cousins. A DNA test of any of them would prove conclusively if my speculation that John Montran and John Foster Montran are the same person. If you are a descendant of Thelma Montran Babcock, I would love to hear from you.  We might be cousins.


Sources:

1900 Census (FS), Family Search, Penrose Brown – Waterloo, Seneca, New York. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSGZ-6PP

1910 Census, Other, Penrose Brown – Shamokin, Northumberland, Pennsylvania;. Family Search.

1916 Canada Census, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, , Other, 1916 Canada Census. Year: 1916; Census Place: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw, 17I; Roll: T-21931;.

1920 Census (FS), Family Search, Miner [Minor] H Babcock – San Francisco, San Francisco, California. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH4H-8MD.

1930 Census (NARA), Ancestry.Com, Minor Babcock – Inglewood, Los Angeles, CA [Maude Montran]. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCJJ-G73.

1940 Census, Ancestry.Com, 1940 – Thelma (Montran) Babcock – Inglewood, Los Angeles, California; Roll:.

California Death Index, 1940-1997, Family Search, Thelma M Pretz (Montran/Babcock).

California, County Marriages, 1850-1952, Family Search, James R Hinds & Olga R Babcock. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8VW-2MM.

Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA, ), Newspapers.Com, 1944-12-30, Page 4 – Thelma Montran Babcock.

U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, Ancestry.Com, Inglewood, California, City Directory, 1935 – Page 30 – Babcock. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?viewrecord=1&r=an&db=USDirectories&indiv=try&h=1379164103.

U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, Ancestry.Com, Inglewood, Hawthorne and Lennox, City Directory, 1933 – Page 35 – Babcock. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?viewrecord=1&r=an&db=USDirectories&indiv=try&h=1400093271.

United States Social Security Death Index, Family Search, SSDI – Thelma Pretz (Montran/Babcock).

 

 

Donna at the Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, PA, August 9-21, 1920

Background
I have long been looking for when Donna made the shift from being in the “Chin Chin” production to being in the “California Bathing Beauties.” The last “Chin Chin” production that I know of was on May 21, 1920 in Geneva, NY at the – Smith Opera House. I knew that she appeared in the “California Bathing Beauties” at the Plaza Theater in Bridgeport, CT on December, 30, 1920. That is seven months and I could not believe that she went that long without other performances. I had poked around looking for later “Chin Chin” productions but hadn’t much luck finding anything. I thought I’d see if I could find other “California Bathing Beauties” productions in 1920.

I went to one of my favorite newspaper sites, Elephind.Com. Elephind is particularly good because they not only search the Library of Congress’ six million items, but also millions of additional items including the California Digital Newspaper Collection, Pennsylvania State University, and many more.

My search criteria was narrow but simple: Search all Text for “California Bathing Beauties” and the year of “1920.” The results, 6 matches in the (Philadelphia) Evening Public Ledger, two of which were in August 1920. I was then directed to the Library of Congress site where I could broaden my search a little bit. I searched just the Evening Public Ledger for “Metropolitan AND Bathing” and found 26 instances. A few of them weren’t what I was looking for, but the vast majority were helpful.

I like to use a narrow search criterion, find something relevant, and then broaden the search in a tightly defined environment.

The Bill – August 9th through August 21st

Advertising began on August 2nd with a small ad that indicated “Up in Mary’s Attic” was opening August 9. Appearing with the silent movie was the “Original California Bathing Girls” who were to be in person. This pairing showed a great match. “Up in Mary’s Attic” was the story of a young woman who would inherit a fortune if she remained single until she was twenty-one. However, she actually not only married her gym teacher she had a child and hid the child from the conniving son of the principal in the attic of her dormitory. One of the scenes in the movie includes Mary, played by Eva Novak, in a bathing suit. Eva began show business as a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty before her first movie in 1917.[1] It is very likely that Donna knew Eva as they were both Mack Sennett bathing beauties about 1915. I wonder how she felt following the film star as a vaudeville show. I wonder even more how Donna felt as she saw Eva’s career skyrocket as Tom Mix’s love interest in 10 of his western movies and 130 credits, from 1917 to 1966, to her career.

Up in Mary's Attic (1920) - Ad 1

Advertising on August 3rd let the readers know that there were three showings daily. A matinee at 2:30 that only cost 25¢ and evening shows at 7:00 and 9:00 PM with 25¢ and 50¢ seats.[2] Advertising on the 4th and 5th continued the same information.

The first articles about the show begin on August 7th where the Evening Public Ledger reports:


A BATHING girl revue, “The California Bathing Girls,” in person will be given in conjunction with the showing of “Up in Mary’s Attic.” A photoplay at the Metropolitan Opera House. The girls present a revue entitled “A Beach Promenade.”

“Up in Mary’s Attic” is said to be free from slapstick and grotesque antics. The picture tells a comic story of a romance in a boarding school.

The Charming Eva Novak will be seen in the leading feminine role and Harry Gribbon in that of the instructor who marries in secret.


While While the “Original California Bathing Girls” was at the Metropolitan, another show, “Rube Bernstein’s Bathing Beauties,” a burlesque show, was competing playing at the Bijou. The paper on the 7th included a photo of Louise Mersereau, one of the “Bathing Beauties” at the Bijou.

Clearly to compete for theatergoers, the Metropolitan Opera House had two promotions. First, “Six Navy aeroplanes, obtained through the courtesy of Lt. Com. C. Gulbranson, will fly over the city Monday and Tuesday and distribute 100 passes.”[3] I wonder of Donna had anything to do with promoting that idea. Remember, she distributed passes for Birth of a Nation from an aeroplane in 1915.

In addition, as a promotion, sailor Jim White, “the strong man of the Navy” pulled a heavy truck before the 7 and 9 PM shows in front of the Metropolitan. [4]

The show began on the 9th and the
paper on the 10th reported that “hundreds were turned away.” 

Advertising on August 14th
indicates that the movie, and the show, are held over for another week. Also,
very interesting is that the ads begin to show one of the bathing beauties.[5]  It kind of looks like Donna, but I don’t
think so. If it is not her, then, who is it? Also, if it is not she, when did
Donna become the headliner for the show.
    

Also, of particular note, beginning on
the 16th there was a contest to enter the movies.[6]

EACH LADY
ATTENDING THE ABOVE PERFORMANCE UP UNTIL THURSDAY EVENING, MAY LEAVE HER PHOTO,
WITH NAME AND ADDRESS ON BACK THEREOF, AT BOX OFFICE.A REPRESENTATIVE COMMITTEE
WILL SELECT MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL AND ANNOUNCEMENT OF WINNER WILL BE MADE ON
SATURDAY, AUG 21.

A chance of a life-time to be starred in a Fine Arts Production.

The last three shows were on August 21st.[7]  I haven’t been able to find in the paper who
won the contest. It would be interesting to find out.

Theater: Metropolitan Opera House (Philadelphia).

Philly Met Broad St” by Smallbones Licensed under Public Domain

via Wikimedia Commons.

There is an article about the Metropolitan
Opera House in
Philadelphia on Wikipedia.

However, the article does have an error. The Wikipedia article says, “In 1928, while still being used
as a performing venue for operas, the house began presenting silent films to
the public.” From my research presented here, we know that in 1920 the
Metropolitan Opera House played the silent film ““Up in Mary’s Attic.”

[1] IMDB
Database entry for Eva Novak – See: WWW.IMDB.COM
–  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0636834/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
[2] Evening Public Ledger. (Philadelphia
[Pa.]), 03 Aug. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib.
of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1920-08-03/ed-1/seq-8/ 
[3]
Evening Public Ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 07 Aug. 1920. Chronicling America:
Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1920-08-07/ed-1/seq-12/
[4] Evening Public Ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 07 Aug. 1920. Chronicling America:
Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1920-08-07/ed-1/seq-12/
[5] Evening Public Ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 14 Aug. 1920. Chronicling America:
Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1920-08-14/ed-1/seq-6/
[6] Evening Public Ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 16 Aug. 1920. Chronicling America:
Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1920-08-16/ed-1/seq-8/
[7] Evening Public Ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 21 Aug. 1920. Chronicling America:
Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1920-08-21/ed-1/seq-10/

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